Review recognises violent reality of working in hospitals

Thursday, 18 February, 2021

Review recognises violent reality of working in hospitals

The Anderson Review into hospital security reveals the bloody and violent reality confronting hospital workers across NSW, according to the Health Services Union (HSU).

The Union strongly supports the report’s recommendations, which include:

  • An understanding that staff have an explicit legal and moral right to safety at work.
  • Managers must ensure the current culture of under-reporting violence ends.
  • NSW Health will consider a trial of capsicum foam and other defensive tools to help de-escalate situations.
  • Hospitals must be better designed and built to encourage safety.
  • Appropriate warnings be posted at hospitals indicating aggressive and violent behaviour will not be tolerated, and that police will be called and charges will be pursued.
  • Ensuring duress alarms are worn and used, as well as fixed to the treatment rooms.
  • Ensuring clinical staff inform security staff when they become aware that a patient, who may present a behavioural challenge, is en route to the hospital.
  • Greater support for staff to report assault to police and to request action be taken by the police against the perpetrator.
  • A review of liaison between hospitals and the police, over the transfer of violent patients from custody to hospital.

The HSU will campaign to ensure the recommendations are delivered by NSW Health, along with the boost in hospital security staff numbers needed to make these recommendations a reality. The Union will continue to push for the expansion of permanent security staff over contract and casual staff, as well as significant expansion of hospital security numbers across the state.

“For the last two decades hospitals have become increasingly violent, dangerous places to work,” HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said. “Our members have been kicked, punched, shot and stabbed. Just last month, a security assistant at Port Macquarie Hospital had a chunk of flesh torn from his torso when a patient bit him.

“This report is a long overdue recognition of the violent horror that hospital workers confront. It should prompt better powers, better defensive tools and, most critically, the employment of extra permanent security officers. Security officers must be empowered to defend themselves and public safety and have the capacity to de-escalate a situation. We will hold NSW Health accountable to implementing this reform package.

“Hospitals have a wide range of medical specialists; they should also employ and empower security specialists to protect staff, patients and visitors.

“For too long this problem has been swept under the carpet. It is reassuring to see this report remind everyone that hospital staff have an explicit moral and legal right to safety. And that staff will be supported through the legal process when they make a complaint.”

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